Six years after Californians rejected a previous initiative that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, state voters this time decided to make weed legal and readily available to adults 21 and over, regardless of medical need.
Proposition 64 was the most-watched marijuana initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot as five states – also Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – contemplate legalizing pot for recreational use and four others have measures for medical use.
In 1996, California was the first to legalize marijuana as medicine with Proposition 215. Twenty-four other states have followed in legalizing medical use, with four states – Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska – along with Washington, D.C., approving recreational use.
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The outcome of Proposition 64 is expected to have a significant impact on marijuana politics nationally. But how will it change things in California, starting Day One? Here are some questions and answers.
Q: Now that Proposition 64 has passed, what can people do differently today?
A: Adults 21 and over can legally consume marijuana without having a doctor’s recommendation for medical use. They also can possess up to an ounce of marijuana buds or 8 grams of cannabis concentrates. For cannabis novices, that is a lot more than a single joint, or even a handful of them.
Q: What about growing marijuana?
A: The initiative immediately allows residents to grow as many as six pot plants at home, indoors or in enclosed structures. Local governments can ban outdoor cultivation outright as well as set standards for indoor cultivation. Sacramento County bans all outdoor cultivation, and the city of Sacramento bans open-air pot gardens (including nonpermanent greenhouses) in residential areas. And people who are renting may want to check with their landlords, since owners can set rules for what they will allow or prohibit in rental properties.
Q: Can people consume marijuana in public?
A: No. Marijuana use is allowed only on private property, not in parks or on sidewalks or anywhere where smoking is banned. People using marijuana in a public place can be subject to a $100 infraction. The fine increases to $250 in no-smoking areas. Also, mere possession is banned in schools or youth centers.
But pot users can consume in private clubs or at events that are licensed for on-site marijuana consumption and are not visible by people under 21 or from any public place.
Q: When – and where – will people be able to buy recreational marijuana?
A: Stores selling non-medical marijuana can open on or before Jan. 1, 2018, as a state program for retail licenses is implemented. Marijuana dispensaries can begin applying for temporary state licenses for recreational marijuana next year, but over-the-counter pot sales aren’t expected until next summer.
Marijuana products only can be sold at licensed dispensaries, not at supermarkets or liquor stores or other businesses. Most of Sacramento’s 30 existing medical marijuana dispensaries are expected to offer recreational marijuana, as are the majority of current cannabis shops statewide. The city also is expected to license home-delivery services for marijuana from the dispensaries. Sacramento County bans all marijuana businesses.
Q: How much will recreational marijuana be taxed and will the taxes also apply to medical marijuana?
A: Proposition 64 will impose a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales that will be charged on top of state and local sales taxes. Medical marijuana users also will have to pay the new excise tax on medicinal products. But they can be exempted from sales taxes if they obtain California state medical marijuana identification cards by applying at county offices in their county of residence.
Q: What are the rules for stoned drivers?
A: Proposition 64 maintains current state laws against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including pot, meaning that marijuana driving convictions may hinge on evidence of consumption and erratic driving.
The initiative’s passage imposes no specific legal exposure standard for driving while stoned, such as in Colorado or Washington, where recreational marijuana use was approved by voters in 2015. However, it directs tax revenues to researchers with the University of California system and to the California Highway Patrol to study marijuana impairment and develop “protocols and best practices” for detecting people driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.
Q: What criminal penalties does Proposition 64 maintain or change?
A: Adults possessing more than an ounce of marijuana will continue to face misdemeanor charges, including a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. Punishment for possession of marijuana for sale are being dropped from mandatory felonies and up to two years in jail to the same misdemeanor penalty.
Adults 18 to 21 will continue to face a $100 infraction for marijuana possession, while youths under 18 can get counseling or community service in lieu of a fine. Also, the initiative would allow people convicted of a marijuana offense that is no longer a crime to petition to have their records expunged.
Q: Marijuana is still illegal federally. How can it be legal in California?
A: While pot use and sales are still prohibited under federal law, the United States Justice Department in 2013 made landmark concessions, promising not to target lawful marijuana businesses or cannabis use in states that legalized pot and also enacted and enforced “robust” regulations governing state-permitted marijuana industries. The Justice Department said it would still target criminal operations trafficking marijuana across state lines, into the black market or to children.